This is one of those movies that allows you to just sit back and enjoy it. The plot is straight forward a small fishing harbour in Newfoundland is dying, there are only about 120 people left in the harbour (it is not a village!) and they need to do something about it. That something hinges on there being a doctor in the harbour community.
In the middle of all this is Murray French, (Brendan Gleeson) one of the locals who lives his life in the harbour, like all the other men of the village, he is on the social welfare. The routine of welfare payments and cheque cashing punctuates the life of the town. As it happens a petrochemical reprocessing plant is looking to open, but has not selected a site yet. The towns-folk need to act fast. The latest person to leave is the mayor. In the absence of the mayor, Murray steps in and becomes town mayor, assisted by Simon (Gordon Pinsent, Beachcombers 1975-1978) a neighbour who fully understands what needs to be done and Henry Tilley, (Mark Critch, Republic of Doyle, 2010-2014) who is the local bank manager/clerk, who is very conscious of being only one step away of being replaced by an ATM. The big stumbling blocks are the need to have a resident doctor in the Harbour and the $100K “personal assurances” that the head of the petrochemical company wants. It to the mix is Murray’s view of ethics, he’s very much a “end-justifies
What follows is the discovery of a doctor, who might be persuaded to stay for a month and then possibly longer. Sound familiar? I could be cruel and say this movie is largely unoriginal simply throwing a fresh twist on a plot that has been done excellently a number of times previously. Not least of all, the Gold standard for any such comedy: Whisky Galore, (1949, Alexander Mackendrick) where we see the village come together to plunder a ship full of whisky which has come ashore. The more immediate comparison would be with Doc Hollywood (1991, Michael Caton-Jones) where our hero is sentenced to work in the town as a doctor for a short while following a minor car accident. As with This movie, our hero (Michael J Fox, Back to the Future, 1985). There is also one particular sequence where they are trying to “inflate” the harbour’s population, that reminded me of Ward Bond’s call in The Quiet Man (John Ford, 1952) for his parishioners to shout like good Protestants, as the Anglican Bishop was passing through (to save the Anglican Minister’s parish by having the Bishop think it is somewhat larger than it is).
So, you may be tempted to say we’ve seen it all before. That would be a mistake. What we have here is first class situational comedy. Taylor Kitsch (John Carter 2012) plays Dr Lewis, the up and coming young plastic surgeon whose career has hit a pump by being found with cocaine – as it happens by the former mayor, now working as a customs official, he has an idea!
With that, the town begins to tidy itself up so as to make it look like a place he would want to stay. What follows is a series of rolling jokes like the cliff-top cricket match, the phone monitoring and a dozen other standing jokes. Which all combine to make this a very entertaining movie with gags for all of the family.
What makes this movie work is a concentration on the senses, Director Don McKellar (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, 2010) uses Douglas Koch’s cinematography to its fullest capturing the rugged beauty of the location and of the Harbour, the richness of colour adds to the positive nature of this movie. As well as the visuals, the script itself is razor sharp, much to the credit of Michael Dowse and Ken Scott. Whether or not this is a good thing, the sound track supporting the movie also got itself noticed and favourably.
Sit back and enjoy a light-hearted situational comedy which will leave you feeling as if the world is not all that bad. I’m not going to go through the movie gag-by-gag, but suffice it to say this is a tightly directed ensemble production which works well on every level. Before I finish, in case you think I forgot it, yes there are parallels with the Bill Forsyth’s 1983 classic “Local Hero”, in both cases the movie sets out simply to entertain, and it both cases they did perfectly.
I was tempted to give this a perfect score, I have not laughed with a movie as I did with The Grand seduction in a long time. Nothing is perfect so 9/10.